Ateneo de Manila University's Jolo MendozaContributed Photo
MANILA, Philippines — Despite not having their senior players, the young Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles were able to display poise under pressure, staving off the Colegio de San Juan de Letran Knights, 62-54, Saturday at the Greenhills West Indoor Court in San Juan City.
Behind the troika of William Navarro, Jawuan White, and Gabe Natividad, the Blue Eagles were able to buck a slow start to lead by as much as 17 points, 48-31, late in the third frame. The troika finished with nine points each with Navarro, a transferee from San Beda, grabbing eight boards as well.
Needing someone to lead them, it was former Blue Eaglets SJ Belangel and Jolo Mendoza who stepped up to the plate. The pair took charge in Ateneo's counter-run that put Letran away for good.
"Whoever is in, we believe that they are going to do the same job as the veterans. That's the philosophy we want to teach these guys," shared Arepacochaga, who was sitting in for head coach Tab Baldwin as he is hosting a coaching clinic.
"We had some ups and downs. That's what we talked about. It's good that we were able to stop their run and be organized. There was a moment there when we were in a panic. It's good that the players settled down and did their job," the deputy added.
After being cold for most of the game, the Knights were able to finally find their groove in the final frame. They were able to break Ateneo's hard press while getting some stops. Letran went on an 11-0 run capped by a rare four-point play by Jerrick Balanza to cut the lead down to just four points, 46-50, with 5:09 left.
Larry Muyang was the sole Knight to score in double-figures with 10 points. Expected leaders Bong Quinto and JP Calvo both struggled against Ateneo's defense, finishing with just six points each with Quinto shooting a horrid 2-of-12 from the field.
But all alone, the Letran cager's efforts were put to naught by the Mendoza and Belangel's valiant stand that accounted for 15 points.
"We're trying to make sure that we work on our system on both ends," offered Arespacochaga. "So it doesn't matter if some of our veteran players were out. What we're after was how well will the other guys execute given the situation. We're going to depend on them in the UAAP."
With the win, the Blue Eagles advance to the knockout semifinals of the 2018 SMART City Hoops 25-Under Summer Classic where the UP Fighting Maroons await. The action, presented by Chooks-to-Go, Mighty Sports, Rain or Shine Elasto Paint, Wilson Basketball, and Cignal TV, is on Wednesday, June 6.
ADMU 62 - Mendoza 9, Navarro 9, White 9, Natividad 9, Mamuyac 6, Belangel 6, Kouame 5, Wong 4, Mallillin 3, Tio 2, Andrade 0, Black 0, Maagdenberg 0.
CSJL 54 - Muyang 10, Agbong 8, Fajarito 6, Balanza 6, Calvo 6, Quinto 6, Ambohot 6, Balagasay 2, Mandreza 2, Batiller 2, Yu 0, Celis 0.
Quarterscores: 9-14, 30-31, 50-35, 62-54.